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  • Writer's pictureRachel

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT Lisa Swinbanks Fuses Sweet Tokyo Fashion, Royal Style, And Itty Bitty Busts

Lisa Swinbanks is a Sydney-based designer who, like her designs, is classically elegant with a twist of sweet Japanese style. Lisa grew up in Tokyo with her Japanese mother and English father, and her designs are a vivid reflection of the two cultures that have predominantly shaped her life.

Lisa studied Applied Fashion Design and Technology, and an Advanced Diploma in Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney. Monochrome tones and pastels are prominent features of her brand, combined with a twist of flirtatious feminine elegance. Recently, Lisa has invested her skills to create the Itty Bitty Label, celebrating smaller busted women and creating designs which enhance the natural female shape for bodies with small busts.

How did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer? 

I’ve always loved to create stories and loved to create characters to draw their garments. Whether it was for a manga submission, a picture book, or a painting, I was enthralled to draw clothing on the heroin to evoke an emotion.

The Disney films and the anime I was drawn to always had strong willed female protagonists with a fashion sense to kill. The story was as important to me as the visual effect because why not look good while you saved the world?

During my final year at The University of Sydney, I had been writing my thesis thinking about what I wanted to do upon graduation. That was when I decided to explore all my interests and decided to stitch together a dress by hand. My peers and friends noticed that I had a dream and had a sense for design, gifted me with my first sewing machine on my 21st birthday. I haven’t looked back since.

When you were studying fashion, what were the best parts and the most difficult parts?

I want to say all of it was the best part! If I narrow it down the designing, the fabric sourcing, the creating, and the encouragement and knowledge I gained from my peers and teachers was the best part.

Learning to pattern make was not easy to begin with. After learning several different methods, it began to make more sense and it slowly became enjoyable. It is still not easy but the challenge is what makes it fun.

What inspires your designs? 

I like to take inspiration from my heritage and upbringing from Japan and the UK. I like to incorporate the sweet element of Tokyo street fashion, and fuse it with a touch of royal from British fashion history. I am particularly drawn to the Tudor period, Victorian era fashion as well as present day Royal Family’s sense of style.

What do you think is an important issue in the fashion industry right now? 

Limiting wastefulness and practicing kindness towards our possessions, such as our clothes, I think is an important issue. We all have a lot of clothes we’ve outgrown but I think it is important that we fix them or change them rather than throw them out. It is actually very easy to create a new garment out of an old one as the old one act as the building block to the new garment. When it comes to your own clothes there isn’t any rules on how you should go about altering them and so I would encourage everyone to give it a try. Worst comes to worst you muck up a garment that was going to be left unworn in the back of your cupboard but more likely than not you create something you are proud of.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on? 

I am currently working on creating custom midi dresses for a client based in Tokyo. We’ve finalised the design and sourced the fabric locally in Marrickville. All that is left to do is to pattern make and then sew the garments, which I am very much excited about.

I am also in the process of launching a new line “itty bitty label”, which is a brand focused on empowering small busted women through clothes that accentuate the natural feminine shape. I recently did a photoshoot for the line and now waiting for the bulk order to be shipped to Australia!

What are your goals for your career? 

My goal is to become a household name across Australia, then Japan, and then greater Asia Pacific. My goal for the brand is to be a bridge between East and West through cross cultural aesthetics, embodying an universal message of female empowerment and self acceptance.

If you could give fashion students or aspiring fashion designers one piece of advice, what would you tell them?

Just do it” as Nike puts it. The creation process in itself is a healing process and to act upon your hearts dreams and desires is both a release and unification of “you” as an entity. Do it for the passion, for your mental wellbeing, and for the love of creating something you love. Give your soul the opportunity to express and see where it takes you. You do something long enough you will succeed.

You can find Lisa’s designs at or on Instagram @lisaswinbanks @ittybittylabel

Images courtesy: Lisa Swinbanks

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